In a number of ways, this book invites comparison with /The da Vinci Code/. There is the same use of a specialist profession and its particular knowledge (Dunning's protagonist is, like Dunning himself, a rare books dealer). There is a historical mystery (did Burton travel through the USA's southern states, immediately prior to the Civil War?) with hints of conspiracy (was he spying for a British government intent on fomenting conflict?), whose resolution entangles a contemporary thriller puzzle storyline with conspiracy elements of its own. There is a love interest subplot between two strong characters, a dash of betrayal, and innocent victims fall along the way.
But: /The Bookman's Promise/ is an infinitely better book than /The da Vinci Code/.
First and foremost, it's infinitely better written. Brown's book contains interesting fictions which could be developed, but then survives purely on the on the reader's willingness to suspend disbelief, be intrigued, and resist the urge to laugh. Dunning, on the other hand, holds a reader by his ability to tell a story well. Incidents in Brown's narrative are episodic pyrotechnics, with the story there only as a scaffold between them; in Dunning's they are embedded as part and parcel of the evolving story itself.
Then there are the characters who populate the book. Brown's characters are two dimensional cardboard cutouts with only just as much depth as is required to carry the events; they are not real. Dunning's characters, by contrast are rounded and alive; you have to care about them. Most of them are good, warm hearted people (though they have their share of failings), who care about one another; there are a couple of out and out villains, but for the most part the baddies are just fallible human beings with back stories built on feet of clay - even the central act of betrayal is a sordid accident bitterly regretted rather than a deliberate act.
Where I finished /The da Vinci Code/ despite an urge to bail out at the end of every chapter, resisting a constant tendency to fall asleep, /The Bookman's Promise/ drew me on through, constantly absorbed, from the first page to the last. This is despite the fact that I have a passing interest in some of the ideas in Brown's book but none whatsoever in the setting of Dunning's. I have not the faintest glimmer of interest in the rare books business, but I nevertheless felt Dunning's (and Janeway's) love of this trade seeping out of the pages and through my skin.
I'm left with the inescapable feeling that Dunning loves both the human race and what he does; that's a wonderful combination, rarer and more precious even than a Burton first edition. Janeway ends the book disappointed in his fidelity to his own promise, but Dunning lives up to his for me.
- Format: Kindle Edition
- File Size: 1241 KB
- Print Length: 496 pages
- Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0743249925
- Publisher: Scribner (9 March 2004)
- Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc (AU)
- Language: English
- ASIN: B000FC1A52
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Customer Reviews: 61 customer ratings
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #56,818 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)